A look back at Nadal v. Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov, who won the Brisbane title at the start of the year, got a chance to prove his mettle on Friday when he faced Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open semi-finals. Victory would have made him the first Bulgarian, male or female, to be in a grand slam final. But that wasn’t to be.

Instead, it’ll be Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer in the 2017 Australian Open final after the Spaniard thwarted a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Grigor Dimitrov to prevail 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 in an exhilarating contest on Friday night in the second men’s singles semi-final at Melbourne Park.

Nadal’s toughest test yet came in the form of Dimitrov, who opened 2017 on a 10-match winning streak, having captured his fifth ATP World Tour title in Brisbane (d. Nishikori), before taking advantage of Novak Djokovic’s exit to surge through his section of the draw.

Dimitrov was bidding to roll on with his strong run of form and improved mental fortitude to reach his first Grand Slam final. He pushed Nadal all the way in an exhilarating four-hour, 56-minute contest with nothing to separate the two men.

Set 1:

The Mallorcan native withstood the opening onslaught from Dimitrov, who held two break point chances in a long opening game. But having held serve, Nadal raced to a 4-1 advantage, breaking in the fourth game by picking the Bulgarian off everytime he approached the net. Nadal gave Dimitrov no looks on his own serve, despite the Bulgarian raising his level as the set progressed, and sealed the opener in just over half an hour with a forehand volley winner.

After letting 2 breaks of serve and 4 set points slip, it seemed like the second set would go begging for Dimitrov. But, the young Bulgarian stepped up in the 12th game to create chances and capitalized to level the match at one set apiece.

Set 2:

Dimitrov led 3-1 and 5-3 with breaks of serve to the good but was immediately broken back both times. He was then denied four set point chances on Nadal’s serve in a ten-minute 10th game but refused to succumb to the Spaniard’s defense. He went on the attack once more in the 12th game, patrolling the net to earn two more set points and converted his first as Nadal hit long after 63 minutes.

Set 3:

Nadal though, never let Dimitrov hold onto the momentum in the early stages of the third set. The Bulgarian saved two break points in the third game, but couldn’t find a way through Nadal’s defenses in the long baseline exchanges to broken for a 3-2 lead. But, Dimitrov again showed his ability to bounce back, breaking Rafa straight back in the following game as the hit wide.

The set went to a tie-break, but Nadal pulled ahead in the first point and maintained his advantage. On his first set point at 6/5, a series of heavy backhands from the Spaniard drew a forehand error from Dimitrov and put Nadal up 2 sets to 1.

Set 4:

Nadal served first in the fourth set, and the pressure was always on Dimitrov’s shoulders, but the youngster rose to the occasion. Firing monumental winners on crucial points, Dimitrov forced a tie-break and seized control as he raced to a 6-3 lead, converting his second set point, to give the crowd just what they wanted, after 3 hours and 50 minutes of exhilarating tennis.

Set 5:

Nadal looked set to break straight at the start of the fifth set, but Dimitrov held his nerve to thwart three break points. Both men would then struggle their way out of tough games setting the match up for a nail-biting finish.

A run of 26 consecutive service holds ended, as Nadal made the decisive breakthrough at 4-all, as he broke the Bulgarian with a backhand winner up the line to serve for the match at 5-4.

As he had done all match, Dimitrov refused to go away and denied Nadal on his first three match point at 40/30 with his athleticism and some massive forehands.

But at the third time of asking, Nadal fell to the floor in jubilation, as Dimitrov hit long. It was a tennis match for the ages.

“I didn’t think of being where I am today, but I always had confidence that if I can win some matches anything can happen,”
said Nadal after the thrilling win.

And fans finally have the dream #Fedal final that they’d hoped for.



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